This chapter contains bodily harm and the threat of rape. It's frightening, but largely non-graphic.
There was a horrible dryness in his mouth and he moaned as he tried to move his stiff limbs. Confusion flowed through him when he realized that he couldn't bring his arms down from where they were raised above his head.
Danny shivered, his skin prickling with the surrounding cold. His eyes fluttered open with another moan. His brain felt slow and it took a moment for him to put together what he was seeing.
A whine escaped his throat and he was horrified to realize that he was naked. Naked and tied to some kind of table, his wrists and ankles secured to the corners by wide manacles.
He turned his head back and forth, but the angle was bad and all he could tell was that it looked and smelt like a basement. Dusty and dingy, with the nose-curling scent of mushrooms growing. There was a heavily curtained window near the ceiling of the wall to his left and there were workbenches and bookcases filled with glass jars and what looked like tools everywhere.
"I see you're finally awake."
Danny turned his head to his right and found a blond man kneeling next to the table, looking right at him. He jerked his head back, but there wasn't anywhere for him to go. The man laughed.
The man spoke like they were already in the middle of a conversation, "He likes the meat fresh and tender, but he doesn't care what I do to the carcass before it's slaughtered." He slowly reached out his hand and traced his fingers across Danny's cringing face, brushing against the tears Danny couldn't help.
"Don't be afraid, pretty. I'll take good care of you."
"Please," Danny rasped. "Please, no."
The man "tsked" and picked something up off the floor. "You're really going to beg? I thought you were better than that."
Danny tried to turn his face away, but the man clamped his free hand on his jaw to force his mouth open as he jammed the ball-gag past Danny's teeth.
"I'll be right back. I wouldn't want to rush with you."
The man walked away, his footsteps retreating across the room and up what sounded like creaky stairs. There was the sound of a door opening and the click of a switch; the overhead light shut off.
There was the flooding light of an open door, but it only lasted a few seconds before the door swung shut with a heavy sound.
Everything went dark.
Danny shivered in the blackness and tears streamed down his cheeks. He prayed that someone would come to rescue him soon. Before the "fun" began.
Because he knew the man was going to kill him afterward. It was the only reason why he wouldn't have bothered with a mask.
Danny was going to be raped and murdered and no one would ever know what had happened to him. The earth would swallow him whole. He would disappear without a single trace.
He lay in the darkness and wept, the sound muffled by the gag.
* . * . *
Marshal was losing his mind. Danny had been kidnapped and who knew what was happening to him and it didn't seem like anyone was doing anything. Sure, there were agents and men and women wearing the uniform of Worth Enterprises security swarming all over the property, but it didn't feel like enough was being done. Not enough for Danny.
"I think we've got it."
He turned to Arthur. They'd moved inside and were using the library as a planning post for the Worth Enterprises security people. He hadn't wanted to get too far away from Arthur and his tablet. He'd decided the microchip was the best chance that Danny was going to be found before it was too late.
"Have you found him?" Marshal asked.
"I just got a message from Mr. Bleeks himself. They've managed to narrow down Danny's location." Arthur wrote quickly on a yellow sticky note and held it out. "GPS coordinates."
Marshal snatched the note. "Thank you!" He ran to get it to Supervisory Agent Greg Martin, who was handling the FBI's end of things from the dining room.
They were going to need a little time to gather a SWAT, but he had hope that Danny could be rescued. Just as soon as they used the GPS numbers to get an address.
While he waited he prayed that Danny would hold on until they got to his location. Prayed that Danny was okay.
Because he didn't know what he would do if Danny wasn't all right. Though a tiny voice whispered, "Murder."
Forcing himself to be patient was torture. He was nearly vibrating through his skin with the need to be out and about dragging Danny home and kicking the ass out of anyone that got in his way.
Marshal leaned against the wall with his arms crossed to hide the way his fingers twitched incessantly or wanted to form tight fists of fear and rage. He tried not to think about the poor Andrea stuffed into a recycle bin by whoever had abducted Danny. Tried not to imagine Danny's body turning up in a garbage dump someway, skin rotted away, but the signs of depravity all too clear.
He held himself still and he watched the activity of the room as Martin's agents trawled various networks for information. He wasn't allowed to be involved in the investigation even though he itched to do the research himself.
"Got it, sir," the serious young agent announced, looking up from her computer. "The signal is coming from a property belonging to an Alison Burk, though she's currently renting the house to her great nephew. His name is Adam York." She rattled off the address, but Marshal's head was spinning.
"Coffee Shop Guy?" he blurted out. They'd questioned Adam York about Janeane Brooks. He'd had the man right in front of him, and now it turned out that Coffee Shop Guy might have been the one to kidnap Danny?
"Who's Coffee Shop Guy?" Martin had incredibly black eyes, inky and somewhat eerie to meet.
"Adam York works at Katerina's Coffee, a coffee shop across the street from Worth Enterprise's corporate office. Agent Starkweather and I questioned him during the Brooks case." Marshal rubbed his hand across his chin with a rasp of stubble. "The guy was strange, but we didn't find anything tying him to any crime."
"And yet, here he is and he's got Daniel Worth." Martin shook his head and Marshal fought not to hunch his shoulders under the attention of the room. Now was not the time to let recriminations get to him.
He focused on what was going on around him as a raid was swiftly scrambled. It would be a while yet before anyone would be moving in to save Danny, but things were clicking into place.
He begged Crane, nearly going to his knees in front of the man, but he was allowed to ride in the van to the scene. He would have to stay out of the way and there wasn't a chance that he was going to be brought into the same room with Adam York, but he would be there.
When they found Danny, Marshal would be there. And he wouldn't let himself contemplate the possibility that Danny might already be dead.
He held onto the hope that Danny would be coming home where he belonged. A traumatized Danny was going to need someone that offered support, not someone that had already given into despair.
* . * . *
Darkness, darkness, everywhere. Not a single drop to drink. It wasn't very funny.
Danny squeezed his eyes tight shut and tried to pretend that he was in the dark of his own personal choice. That he wasn't currently tied down and helpless with his mouth getting terribly dry around the ball gag. His face itched where the tears had dried against his skin and there was nothing he could do.
He was scared. He didn't know what was going to happen, but he knew it was going to be bad. Rape, violence, and death. That was his future.
He'd tried to get out of the manacles, but they were tight against his skin and his hands wouldn't bend. He felt horribly exposed even with the lights off, imagining someone watching him through a night vision lens. He flinched from the idea that someone might be in the room with him, close enough to touch.
His imagination kept tormenting him with the sound of breathing in the darkness. The creak of a floorboard. The rasp of a hand over a saw blade. Even knowing that it wasn't real, his skin prickled with gooseflesh and more than anything he wanted to curl around himself.
And he couldn't.
He shivered, but he'd run out of tears. He felt so helpless, like anything could happen.
Oh God, please get me out of here. I don't like it. I don't like it. Oh please, oh please, oh please...
He blocked out the sound of his own terrified thoughts. He focused on better memories, of candlelight and laughter. Of Arthur's hugs and Olivia's cinnamon rolls. Of Marshal giving him a loving look as a smiling Andrea slipped a plate in front of him. He tried to find some comfort.
He'd nearly reached some kind of serenity when the door opened and the light clicked on.
Danny squeezed his eyes shut to block out the brightness. He'd been in the dark so long that it burned.
"Sorry I was gone, beautiful, you know how it is." There was no creak of the stairs, just the voice close enough to touch. Danny cringed away, biting down on the gag.
There was the brush of fingers across his stomach. His eyes popped open and the man was right there, smiling dreamily as he extended his hand.
No no no no no no...
The man pulled his hand back with an odd jerk of the chin, then hitched himself up on the table, the nylon of his jacket brushing against Danny's leg. "I had quite the night, let me tell you. And then I've spent most of the day running errands and getting things ready. I got a little careless and I think it's about time I left town. You wanna go with me?"
Danny was breathing through his nose so hard that it burned.
"Haha, I'm not taking you anywhere. You make good eye candy, but not that good. I don't need a bunch of dead weight. Besides, he's going to be here soon to pick you up."
Fingers brushed down Danny's leg before darting up to pinch his cheek hard and twist. Danny squealed behind the gag and pain tears flooded his eyes.
"Ooh, you are a responsive one, aren't you? We're going to have so much fun together." As he spoke, the man pinched and twisted at the flesh of Danny's chest, arms, and legs. Harder and harder until it felt like burns and Danny was sobbing helplessly behind the gag, his voice hurting the back of his throat until he thought it was going to tear.
When the man ran his hand down the middle of Danny's face, it left finger streaks of blood. His nails were too sharp and he was having fun making patterns of blood and bruises.
And when he grew bored of finger pinches, he got out the pliers and the alligator clamps.
Danny screamed as the toes of his left foot were tormented one by one. The sound of bone being crushed vibrated up his leg, through his whole body and out the top of his brain. His mouth opened wide around the gag and he could barely breathe as he writhed and twisted, his back arching up and slapping against the table.
He sniffled and quivered when the man stepped around the table away from his foot and stood next to his shoulder. There was blood on the man's tee shirt and jacket, a bright happiness to his eyes.
"Was it as good for you as it was for me?"
Danny's body shook with his sobs as he snuffled air through his nose. His foot hurt-Oh God did it hurt-but he stared at the man, unable to look away from the demon's face.
"You make me want to take the gag off and let you get loud. Too bad my mom's sleeping upstairs. She might get upset to find you here with me," the man said conversationally. He drew aimless shapes against Danny's thigh, fingers twitching up and down.
"I think that I could fall in love with you. Too bad we don't have the time." He began stripping out of his clothes, tossing his shirt and pants behind him. He stepped out of his boxer briefs and fisted his erection.
Danny closed his eyes and turned his face away.
"Nuh uh, you don't get to do that." Fingers under Danny's chin forced his head around. "Open your eyes or I'll cut your eyelids off."
Danny squeezed his eyelids tighter together. He didn't want to be here. He wanted to go home.
"Open your motherfucking eyes, or I will cut them open." That snarl was breathed hotly into Danny's ear. He received a vicious nipple pinch for emphasis.
Danny shuddered, but forced his eyes open. The man smiled at him, so close that Danny could feel his every breath hot against him.
"Good boy." The man climbed up onto the table, maneuvering himself so his knees were between Danny's spread legs. He seemed giant against the backdrop of the light, threateningly nude, erection aggressively out thrust. "I'm going to make you feel so good."
The man lowered himself against Danny and was just beginning to move when there was a shatter of wood and a clatter of footsteps on the stairs. "FBI! Freeze!"
Danny's heart leapt at the thought of being rescued. He screamed as loud as he could behind the gag and tried to buck the man off of him.
"Bitch!" Stars flashed behind Danny's eyes as he was slapped hard across the face.
The man flung himself off the table and disappeared from Danny's view to appear a minute later on Danny's other side, a filleting knife in his hand. "I'll need you so I can get out of here."
Danny held still as the blade was pressed against the skin of his neck, tight enough that he feared breathing too hard. He thought he could feel his skin being split open in a single line of pain-pressure. He quivered with dread.
He was going to die. Help was right there, yet he was going to die.
"FBI! Don't move, motherfucker!"
The knife twitched.
A hole appeared in the man's head with a splash of liquid heat against Danny's bare thighs. Danny fought not to panic as the full weight of the man's body fell across him, chin smashing hard against his shoulder.
An older man wearing black body armor and a helmet hauled the already cooling body off of Danny. "It's gonna be all right, son. We'll get you out of here."
His touch was firm but gentle as he pulled the ball gag away. Danny breathed in a big gasp of air and shuddered.
"Please, please..." Danny bit his tongue hard to silence himself. He was shaking in reaction and more than anything he wanted out of this terrible place. He wanted to feel safe again.
A wide bandage was pressed against his neck and someone slung a blanket over him while the others searched for the manacle keys.
Danny couldn't help flinching from the hands getting too close. He knew they were trying to help him, but he didn't feel safe. The world was whirling around him and he was naked and STILL TIED DOWN.
"Hold on, son. Get that body out of here. What? Well, let him through!"
Danny stared up at the ceiling, afraid to close his eyes around so many strangers, so many hands. He wanted Arthur. He wanted Olivia. He wanted safety and warmth.
He didn't want to be in this place anymore.
"Oh God, Danny!" A hand clasped with his and Marshal shoved his way close. His eyes were wild and his nostrils were flared. He looked like he hadn't shaved or slept, but he was wearing his own body armor and helmet. He looked like an action hero.
Even through the pain of his ruined foot and his own near mindless terror about the people all around, breathing on him, crawling into his skin; Danny smiled.
It hurt, but he had to smile and show Marshal that he would be okay. Because Marshal looked so shattered.
"It's all right, Captain," Danny breathed.
Marshal froze, his eyes locked on Danny's, his mouth tilting downward. Then he huffed and his mouth quivered before firming and his shoulders straightened. "Well then. Let's get you out of here and to the hospital." He turned to look over at someone else. "How are you coming with those manacle keys?"
"We're still searching and..."
A female SWAT member appeared with the key. She was stolidly professional, her eyes not lingering on him as she moved around the table unlocking the manacles. It let Danny hold himself together as her fingers brushed his ankles and wrists. She wasn't trying to touch him.
The minute he was free he pulled himself to a seated position on the table, his knees curling against his chest. He shivered and he refused to look at his left foot after that first horrified glimpse. It didn't look like a part of him.
"They're getting the gurney. We'll have you out of here in a few minutes, I promise. We'll get you right to the hospital." Marshal grabbed the blanket and swept it around Danny's shoulders.
And Danny found himself firmly back in his skin and he pulled the blanket tight around himself. He felt cold and his foot hurt and there wasn't nearly enough pain killer to make whatever the medic was doing not agonizing. He wanted to kick her away, but he clenched his hands into fists and grit his teeth instead.
"This whole night has sucked," he said. He huffed a laugh and it was only a little hysterical. He was pushing his fear away. Trying to be as brave as Kaylee or as stoic as Jayne. Because if he didn't he was going to lose it and just start screaming and he didn't want to have a public freak out.
"I want Arthur."
"We couldn't have him on the scene with us because it was too dangerous. He's on his way to meet us at the hospital," Marshal said.
Danny jerked a nod. "Okay." He chewed on his fingers and his lip. Finally he turned to Marshal and stared at his chest. He needed something to ground him. "Will you hug me?"
"Of course," Marshal said. He held his arms open and Danny wrapped himself around him, squeezed him as tight as he could.
Danny pressed his cheek against Marshal's chest and just held on. Marshal's hand fell on his shoulders softly, holding without trapping.
"Talk to me," Danny said. He winced and cried out when the medic did something painful. His fingers dug into Marshal's back, but the man didn't complain.
Marshal cleared his throat. "I was outside. I would have been here, but they made me stay out until you were safe."
"You're here now," Danny said.
"Yeah. And I'm not leaving you alone."
"All right, that's packed up good. Get that gurney over here!" The medic closed her case and stood up. "You're going to be okay, sir. It looks a lot worse than it is."
Marshal helped lift Danny onto the gurney and he stayed in Danny's line of sight all the way to the ambulance.
He gripped Danny's hand on the drive to the hospital. He promised Danny that Arthur and Sophia were there waiting for him.
And Danny was able to close his eyes and rest. Marshal was taking him to Arthur, and he trusted Marshal to keep him safe.
He wanted to be safe.